Some see Hurricane Maria, another violent weather system offshore, and Washington’s rerun of Obamacare repeal this week and picture the movie Groundhog Day.  But those who respond to natural disasters recognize the importance of a proactive approach to looming cyclical impacts. Paul Yeager has more... 

The longer reaching impact of Hurricane Irma is coming into focus. Florida agriculture officials said this week the storm “could not have been more lethal” to the state’s farmers and the scope of damage to fruits and vegetable in the Sunshine State is unprecedented.

Fruit has started to fall from the citrus crop -- the dropped oranges are turning from green to orange, leaving piles of ruined juice oranges in the field. Some groves are still under water which will likely kill the trees.

Some long-time observers of the industry say the hurricane’s damage will likely be more severe than any previous freezes, fires or floods.

Florida is the nation’s largest juice producer and some citrus farmers in the southwestern portion of the state say they’ve lost 80-90 percent of their crop.

All of the cotton crop in the storm’s path was insured. However, many of the farmers impacted by Irma and Harvey hoping crop insurance would assist in recovery are finding out their coverage may fall short. The number and type of crops covered by insurance has grown 86 percent since 2000, leaping from 325 to 551 this season.

USDA chief Sonny Perdue estimated damage to U.S. crops from Harvey would come close to a $1 billion.  

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also was dealing with natural disasters this week as he called for a policy change to prevent wildfires.  A recently released memo revealed Zinke would like forest managers to think differently. The plan is to clear dead or diseased trees near roads or buildings and prevent fire from spreading.

Forest fire experts say the policy would be tough to attain and is less desirable than plans already in place.  A thinning policy may assist communities near forests, but much of this year’s blazes are in higher elevations and wilderness areas.

One environmental theory says prescribed burns do more to minimize future fires by reducing fuel than suppression efforts carried out with crews working by hand.

For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.

Reported by Paul Yeager of Market to Market, paul.yeager@iptv.org.